Court system makes changes to address coronavirus concerns

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 12, 2020 1:50 PM CT | Published: March 12, 2020 1:29 PM CT

Memphis City Court Clerk Myron Lowery has announced several changes to city court amid concerns over coronavirus, including excusing anyone 60 or older from court dates and altering the dress code to allow face masks or protective goggles in court.

“The safety and health of the city courts personnel is extremely important, and the Clerk and the Judges want to ensure the appropriate steps are taken to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other similar risks,” Deputy Chief Court Clerk Walter Person said in an email.

The changes, among modifications being discussed throughout the local criminal justice system, were emailed to the clerk’s staff and the media Thursday, March 12.

“Clerk Lowery met with City Court Judges Sugarmon and Chandler today to discuss a unified City Court response to the risk posed by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The conversation resulted in several decisions addressing the risk,” Person stated.

Those changes are:

  • Allowing anyone 60 years old or older or with medical conditions to be excused from court appearances. This effects city courts in Division 1, 2 and 3.
  • Conducting a missed court docket starting March 16. The missed court docket will be conducted Tuesday and Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Allowing several modifications in the dress code, including allowing people to wear safety glasses, goggles or other protective eyewear; face masks designed to protect the nose and mouth areas and protective gloves or other protective hand covering.

Vikki Strong, a supervisor in the finance department, has been designated as the contact person to discuss court appearances and options related to COVID-19, Lowery’s office said.

In Shelby County Criminal Courts, no trials or cases are being held this week because all the judges are attending a judicial conference in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Criminal Court cases are slated to resume Monday, March 16.

Shelby County General Sessions Courts remain open, but county officials held a meeting Thursday, March 12, to assess the situation.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said Thursday morning her office was involved in the meetings and she was discussing the matter with her staff.

“I know with Shelby County Schools closing down, that is going to impact parents and if you have young ones that can’t stay at home by themselves then we need to talk and plan as an office about what’s best to do for our employees to make sure that everybody’s safe and make sure nobody is putting themselves or their families at any undue risk,” Weirich said.

For more information on city court exemptions, call the Memphis City Court Clerk’s Office at 901-636-3400.


Myron Lowery Memphis City Court COVID-19
Yolanda Jones

Yolanda Jones

Yolanda Jones covers criminal justice issues and general assignment news for The Daily Memphian. She previously was a reporter at The Commercial Appeal.